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Cook-offs are all the rage in Oklahoma

The Food Dude shares news from Oklahoma City’s growing dining scene.
by Dave Cathey Published: September 3, 2014

Anticipation for college football season apparently has cast a competitive vibe through Oklahoma kitchens large and small.

Two of the state’s most prestigious cooking competitions recently were carried out, while one Oklahoma home cook has advanced in what is arguably the nation’s largest bake-off.

Christine Southard, 46, of Noble, will head to Nashville, Tenn., to compete in the 47th Annual Pillsbury Bake-Off on the strength of her Chocolate Almond-Butter Turtles.

The seed was planted 10 years ago when she saw a commercial for the contest.

“I told myself, ‘I’m gonna enter that contest some day,’” she said in a recent phone interview.

Growing up in Rutland, Vt., Southard learned to bake alongside her mother and grandmother, drawing instruction and inspiration along the way — including the family recipe for spaghetti sauce.

But sweets have always been her dark lord, and her passion for cooking manifested itself most brilliantly in the form of cookies, which is just fine with her family.

Southard moved to Noble 13 years ago when she married a Noble man. She considers herself a fully acclimated Oklahoman.

The Southards will head to Nashville on Nov. 2 for her to compete with the other 99 finalists in four categories for assorted prizes.

If Southard’s Chocolate Almond-Butter Turtles win $10,000 in the Simply Sweet Treats category, she will be eligible for the grand prize, which is chosen based on a combination of points awarded by the judging panel and points awarded through a public vote on Facebook. Judges will select the four finalists, and the public takes it from there.

Best of luck to Christine. We’ll have her in real soon to share that championship recipe.

Championships chefs

Probably the best perk in my job littered with perks is numerous invitations to help judge cooking contests, including the Oswalt Culinary Cookoff and Taste of Elegance.

Chefs from around the state gathered for a two-day competition last week at the Oklahoma Restaurant Association Convention and Expo. At the center of the event was the Oswalt Culinary Cookoff, now in its 18th year.

The winner of this year’s competition was Chris McCabe, corporate chef for A Good Egg Dining Group. McCabe fended off a game effort from Jimmy Tillman of Devon’s Nebu in the finals and a tight race against Southern Nazarene University’s culinary director Ian Wagner in the semifinals. Kenneth Hardiman of Whiskey Cake took fourth place in the mystery-basket contest.

McCabe, with the help from Platt College culinary arts student Maria Jones, won by turning three kinds of fish (madai, tarakihi and capelin) into a simple, elegant expression of culinary craftsmanship, using ingredients from Super Cao Nguyen Market.

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by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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